Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Among my collection of favorite books is one entitled, Writer's Houses, by Francesca Premoli-Droulers. It's a large book that features pictures of the homes of several writers, some I've read and or heard of and some who are new to me. She features writers from Europe, South America and North America. In her introduction, Francesca says, "This book is about the varied dwellings in which some of the greatest writers of the last one hundred years, lived, created and suffered, where they acquired perhaps a taste for solitude and certainly an urge to write. These are the private domains they loved, the secret places where they found fullfilment."

It features the innner sanctums of Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), Vita Sackville-West, Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf. Twain, Yeats, Hemmingway, among others. What I love about this book is how intentional each of the rooms is, but also how imperfect. It looks like someone has had a life there...sometimes complex, messy, uneven, but also orderly, seasonal, rhythmic.

In contrast, the rooms in home magazines and on television shows look impressive, but ultimately, they are too perfect for me. I can't find myself in them. Within the walls of these writers' houses, I feel more at home. There are lumpy old chairs and bookshelves crammed with books. Potted plants, only half alive but tenaciously surviving, cluttered writing tables, windows with views as grand as the ocean or as simple as a cottage garden. Invariably, somewhere in the house, each writer had some special spot, be it a whole room or merely a secret corner, where he or she experienced enough peace and quiet to write.

I am rarely alone in my house. But I can find solitude enough to write in it. Or maybe it is more accurate to say I have composed enough solitude to write in it, because as Margaret Duras wrote, "One does not find solitude, one creates it."